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American History X

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Essay title: American History X

“Identity” X

“There is only one ‘race’ - the human race - and that we are all members of it” (Atwood). Race has become essential in society today as a way to rank and sort humanity into specific divisions that leads to discrimination. There is no possible way to classify individuals into a race based on physical traits. Early scientists tried to justify race based on visible physical difference. “Race … evolved as a world view, a body of prejudgments that distorts our ideas about human differences and group behavior” (AAA). Humans vary greatly biologically, but the term race has become a cultural category for sorting individuals and is not a biological reality, which has become the accepted concept throughout the world. In the following paper, I will also discuss the topics of the films American History X, Crash, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. All three films deal with topics centering around the injustices of race.

In the film, American History X, one family’s story is told in the time span of about two hours. There are two main characters in the film: two brothers, Danny and Derek Vinyard. The story is told in two different aspects: past and present. The past is ironically filmed in black and white, while the present is filmed in color. The films pits Derek Vinyard into a world of white supremacy, while his younger brother Danny can do nothing except for pay his utmost respect and worship for him. “In the world of the skinhead neo-Nazi, slogans replace thought, fueling a mindless hatred that is startling in its intensity. Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) is one of the most fervent members of the Venice Beach White Supremacist movement. An avowed hater of everyone who is not a white Protestant, he has risen to the top of a ragged group of hate-mongers. Derek is the disciple of Cameron (Stacy Keach), who stays behind the scenes to keep his record clean. Derek's followers include his younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), who worships him; his girlfriend, Stacey (Fairuza Balk), who thoughtlessly parrots his words; and a fat man named Seth (Ethan Suplee), who finds strength in a group that he lacks on his own. Derek's mother, Doris (Beverly D'Angelo), and sister, Davin (Jennifer Lien), are frightened of and for him. Then, on one fateful night, Derek uses deadly force to stop a pair of black youths from stealing his car. He ends up in prison for three years, and, while on the inside, learns some hard truths about life from a fellow inmate (Guy Torry) and from the principal of his old high school (Avery Brooks), who takes a special interest in him. But, when Derek emerges with a desire to change attitudes, he finds that words are not enough” (Berardinelli). After Derek is sent away to prison, Danny seeks to follow in his footsteps. This attitude leads Danny into writing a favorable report of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” When Danny’s principle reads the paper, he pulls Danny out of his original history class and tells Danny that he will be giving him history lessons from then on. He calls the new lessons “American History X.” For his first assignment, Danny is to write another paper on his older brother. This introduces the spins of flashbacks as Danny remembers the events that have shaped his brother, all purposely shown in black and white. In these flashbacks you learn that Derek’s hate for blacks stems back to his fathers own racist beliefs of blacks. You also learn that his father was shot by a black man who was trying to he was trying help. These flashbacks also show Derek’s time in jail where he loses his racist views. While in jail, Derek must join gangs in order to survive. He joins the Neo-Nazi gang but becomes frustrated with them when he sees them trading and bartering with Hispanics and other social minorities. Derek believes that these actions a hypocritical and speaks out against trading with the “enemy.” Derek is raped in the shower because of his outspoken resentment for the gang’s policies and is again an outcast among dangerous company. Now that he is on his own, he believes it is only a matter of time before he is killed. He waits for the Neo-Nazis to kill him but they never do. He also waits for the blacks to kill him but they also do not harm him. Also during this time, he has become friends with black man named Lamont that works with him folding underwear and sheets. Derek jokes with him and they talk about experiences with women and basketball. As he is leaving, Derek says to the Lamont “I think that the only reason I am getting out of this place in one piece is because of you” (IMDB). It is evident that the black man had told the black gang known as “The Brothers” to do him no harm. It is now that Derek is now rid of all racial prejudices. When Derek returns home, he sees that his brother Danny is still part of the Neo-Nazi group. He talks to his brother about his past times

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